A Guide to Developing and Advancing Your Nursing Career

No matter how long you have been in the nursing profession, it is always important to remember that there is room for growth, change, and development. When you focus on advancing your career, you then begin to focus your attention on having a successful and fulfilling career. When you look at advancing your nursing career, you may know that you want to go further; however, you may not know what needs to happen for you to achieve this. So, take some time out of what you are doing. Start formulating an action plan and start deciding what you want in your future.


What Would You Like to Achieve?

When you start putting together a plan, it helps to know what you want to achieve (even if only roughly). When you know what you want to achieve, you then have a good idea as to which direction you need to be headed in. So, what are you looking to achieve over the next five or ten years, and what are you hoping to achieve in the next fifteen years? Are you looking to get into nursing leadership? Are you looking at becoming a family nurse practitioner, or are you looking at being a leader to new nurses that are entering the industry? Establishing what you want to achieve will give you some much-needed clarity. When you have a career or position in mind, you can then do everything possible to realize your ambition.


Creating a Career Plan

Once you have settled on what role or position you would like to reach for, you have to start formulating an action plan or career plan. A career plan should cover everything that you want to do, and it should break down the journey into easy and more manageable steps. When you create a career plan, you take charge of the situation, and you establish what you have to do and by when. For example, if you wish to become an FNP (family nurse practitioner) within the next five years, you would have to start focusing on achieving your doctor’s or postgrad. When you layout your career plan, you have an aid to follow. Of course, you do not have to completely stick to your plan, as life and work can be flexible, and new opportunities can arise. However, having a plan that you can refer to (even only loosely) will help you establish what route to take.


Increased Earning Potential

As you focus on advancing your career, it is important that you do not lose sight of what you want to achieve. Often, when you are focusing on progression, you tend to overlook the little things, achievements, or accomplishments and instead focus on increased earning potential and opportunities. When this happens, you need to be sure that you can take things back to basics. Focusing on why you are a nurse and focusing on why you got into nursing is essential. If you lose sight of this, you may find that you are simply looking at advancing your career for more earning potential, and this is not beneficial for you or for those in your care. Remembering values and remembering what you want to achieve and for whom is always going to be positive.


All Work Experience Is Valuable

As you build your career over time, it is important that you focus on gaining as much work experience as possible. All work experience (whether paid or voluntary) is going to be beneficial to your career and to your future plans. A variety of experiences will help expand your horizons and allow you to build your skillset too. Sometimes when you are in a role, it can be hard to see the value or worth of the experience you are gaining, and this is again where a career plan will be useful. When you compare the experience you are earning against your career goals and plans, you can then see directly how impactful and useful it is. If you do not see the value in the experience you gain and earn, there is a chance that you could end up going off course with your goals and aspirations.


Your Soft Skills and Hard Skills Are Important

Focusing on advancing your career is crucial, but you have to ensure that you focus on developing your hard and soft skills along the way too. This skill set will help you to evolve your role and achieve your ambitions. Your hard skills are things that you have learned or are learning with a hands-on approach, and your soft skills are the skills you utilize without even realizing it. For example, soft skills could be communication. Looking at your skillset and seeing where there are gaps and room for improvement is essential. If you are not improving your skillset, you will not improve as an individual or as an employee.


Investing in Yourself Is Essential

You are your best asset, and everything that you do or want to do is important. Investing in yourself and investing in your experience and your skillset is important. You don’t just need to physically invest; you also have to emotionally and mentally invest too. A career in nursing and one that is advancing will require a whole lot more from you, and it is essential that you are fully on board. When you are prepared to invest in yourself and in your future, you can then be in a position to push forwards. If you are not prepared to invest in yourself, you will see that this can end up holding you back. Self-evaluation is critical for your career both now and moving forwards, and undertaking a process of evaluation (at least every few months) is going to be advantageous for you and your future.


Focusing on Your Education

Just because you already hold a degree, it does not mean that this is sufficient or even enough to get you that role or position you are aiming for. Your education and your knowledge are key when it comes to advancing your career, and this is something that you should never forget. Focusing on enhancing your knowledge is definitely something you need to be focusing on now as opposed to further down the line. Researching what BSN to MSN programs to go for and weighing up which master’s is right and beneficial for you and your career is necessary. If you are not prepared to constantly focus on advancing and enhancing your education, you may find that you get left behind. Experience and awareness are, of course, always beneficial to career progression, but nothing can replace knowledge and education.


Looking at Leadership

When focusing on developing and advancing your career within the nursing industry, have you started to look at leadership? A leadership role could still give you the opportunity to be involved at a more hands-on level while also being proactive in change and development. Good nursing leadership is intrinsically linked to success, and you could be a leader that makes a change. When you are a leader, you can have your say, and you can have your input. You can alter how care is provided, and you can improve the standards of care that are given and received. If you do not pursue a leadership post, you may always be left wondering what you were capable of achieving and what impact you could have had.


Seeking Support

On your journey to a new career level, there will be obstacles that you will have to overcome, and there will also be lots of highs and lows. Building a strong support network around you (both on a personal and professional level) is going to be advantageous. When you have support around you, you can be sure that you never feel alone. Having someone to bounce ideas off or just having a listening ear at the end of the phone can make a real difference to your life and your wellbeing. Pursuing goals and developing a career can leave you feeling drained, and ensuring you have the right backup and support is a must.


Standing out and Getting Noticed

Even when you have invested in yourself and your career, you still need to ensure that you stand out and get noticed. Within the healthcare industry, and even within the nursing profession, there is always healthy competition. How you handle the competition is important. If you are not looking at ways to be seen and get noticed, then your career advancement plans may never get off the ground. Establishing what your selling point is and establishing what makes you different from other nursing professionals is crucial. When you can offer more or provide something different, you can start focusing on building a positive and strong reputation. To advance your nursing career, you have to be different from the rest, and you have to offer more – so, just what have you got to offer, and what would you like to achieve in your career?

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